At the end of the 2008 season, then-Jets quarterback Brett Favre played with a partially-ruptured biceps tendon. The condition never appeared on the team’s injury report.
The situation never would have been an issue if Favre didn’t talk about it after the fact.
But talk about it Favre did. And Favre kept talking about it. When he said that the Jets should have benched him due to the injury, disclosing that an MRI revealed the condition with four or five games to play, the league had no choice but to take action against the Jets for flaunting the rules.
So now that Tom Brady’s personal throwing coach has confirmed that Brady played with undisclosed broken ribs and a broken finger in Week 16, will the league do the same thing to the Patriots?
Brady was listed on the official report from Week 13 through 17 as being probable to play with “right shoulder, finger, rib” injuries. And he played. So under the league’s typically narrow view of the injury reporting obligations, the team complied.
Which brings us back to one of our periodic complaints. If the injury reporting rules aim to ensure that inside information won’t be available for folks with gambling interests to pursue, the injury reporting rules are failing, badly.
Brady’s case proves that inside information is available. At a time when the Pats were treating Brady’s finger and rib problems like the same chronic right shoulder injury that has appeared on most injury reports during Brady’s career, the truth was that Brady had broken bones.
To make matters worse, coach Bill Belichick flat-out denied that the ribs were broken, using the occasion to make a personal attack against the person who was reporting that, indeed, the ribs were broken.
Though we realize that the league office needs to tread lightly when it comes to forcing teams to disclose information that, in the opinion of the affected teams, could hurt their strategic interests, the integrity of the game requires that something more than lip service be paid to the fact that a guy is injured.
To avoid the pursuit of inside information regarding the extent of a player’s injury, the league must expect more than a shrugging reference to a general area of the body. The information must be truthful and complete, or the information is worthless.
So the message here is that, yes, inside information continues to be available to gamblers. And when the NFL faces its own Tim Donaghy-style scandal, the NFL will have no one to blame for the situation but itself.